Maintaining a Healthy Weight for Your Dog with Proper Nutrition & Exercise
Why is it important for your dog to be a healthy weight?
A key responsibility for dog owners is to ensure that their dogs are a healthy weight. By ensuring your dog is the ideal weight, you’re helping him or her live a longer, healthier life.
Unfortunately, not everyone understands how vital healthy dog weight really is. Over the past few years, obesity in pets has become a very prevalent and serious health issue. In fact, obesity affects one out of four dogs in western societies.
Obesity, considered a nutritional disease, can result in a shorter lifespan for your precious dog and is associated with major health issues such as diabetes, heart disease, and arthritis. You may think your pudgy pup (or even fat cat) is adorable; however, if you do not focus on weight management, your pet’s health is at risk!
Dogs, like humans, all have individual needs, and it is important that owners take this into account when trying to figure out diet and exercise plans to keep their dogs at a healthy weight. Things to consider include nutritional requirements, what a dog’s ideal weight is, and how to count calories.
Read on to gain more insight into the importance of healthy dog weight and how you can keep your dog in great condition.
What are the nutritional requirements for a dog?
Although there are many different breeds, all dogs have nutritional requirements based on their life stage. Foods that meet guidelines set out by The Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) will provide a complete and balanced diet. Unfortunately, not all dog food products are made to be full meals and many pet owners make mistakes when feeding raw or home cooked pet food.
Nutritional requirements for dogs are separated into six classes of nutrients: water, protein, fat, carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals.
Water is the most important nutrient and should be provided to both dogs and cats through multiple sources. A good first step is lots of water bowls throughout the house. Another important water source for pets should be through food, such as canned or fresh food options.
Protein is an important source of 10 amino acids that dogs require but cannot make on their own. The amount of protein necessary for dogs (and cats) varies depending on age, activity level, life stage, and health status. It is also very important to consider the quality of protein because lower quality proteins are hard to digest and don’t give the same benefits of higher quality proteins.
The correct amount of dietary fats is important because they are a dog’s most concentrated source of energy. Not only does food fat often enhance taste and texture, but it also plays a vital role in keeping a dog’s skin and coat healthy.
Another important source of energy is carbohydrates. More carbohydrates are essential when dogs require more energy, like during growth, gestation, or lactation. It is important to consider the different sources of carbohydrates, as some are less digestible if not cooked properly.
The last two classes of required nutrients are often grouped together and are equally as important: vitamins and minerals. Both of these nutrients must be monitored carefully as it can be harmful for a dog if there’s insufficient amounts, as well as if they’re getting excess. Different vitamins and minerals boost a dog’s health in different ways. For instance, calcium and phosphorus are critical for strong bones and teeth.
How to know if your dog is the right weight?
These days it really is hard to gauge what average weight is ideal for dogs. As mentioned above, many people consider overweight pets cute, and this is further supported by the constant images of dogs that are too heavy in the media. It's even harder to calculate ideal body weight for dogs when you need to factor in age, breed, size, and exercise levels. The most accurate way to figure out whether your dog is a healthy weight is consulting your vet.
There are some things to look for if you’d like to do a quick evaluation of your dog at home. If your dog is an ideal weight, you’ll be able to feel his ribs easily and there won’t be an abundance of fat covering them. You should also see a noticeable inward curve at the waist and abdomen.
Causes of obesity in dogs
There are several common causes of canine obesity.
Simply put, when a dog eats more calories than it expends, there is an imbalance between the amount of energy inputted and amount of energy used up. It’s the same in humans. When you eat too much and don’t find ways to exercise (or expend energy), then we start to gain weight!
A dog’s weight is impacted by how much he eats, but what he eats also is an important factor. If you’re feeding your dog table scraps or lots of high-calorie snacks, it is more likely they’ll gain unhealthy weight. Consider dry food brands, for example. Many people are turning away from kibble, because most commercial kibble is crazy high in carbohydrates (often 50%-60% carbohydrates) and therefore, your dog is more likely to become overweight if you’re not diligently researching.
Another reason dogs can become more overweight is because they are getting older. That does not mean young dogs are never obese, but that the condition is most commonly seen in dogs 5 years or older. As dogs age, their ability to exercise as frequently or vigorously decreases. It is important that owners take this change in activity level into consideration when planning their aging dog’s diet!
One cause of obesity that surprises some people is neutering your dog. Neutered male dogs retain more fat because of the hormonal disruption caused by testosterone being removed.
Treating dog obesity
Don’t panic! Dog obesity can be treated through a combination of good nutrition and exercise with a focus on gradually and sustainably losing weight. We recommend using your vet as an instrumental part of your dog’s weight loss journey, as he or she will be able to help create a proper plan around diet and physical activity.
Most weight loss diets focus on foods that are high in protein and fiber, but low in fat. Protein encourages energy expenditure, while both protein and fiber keep your dog feeling full after meals.
It is important to consult your vet about the physical part of your weight loss plan to ensure your pup isn’t suffering from obesity-related health issues like diabetes, heart disease, or arthritis. These could make some forms of exercise harder. The most important things to consider is sticking to an exercise regime, taking small steps, and monitoring progress.
How many calories does my dog need to lose weight?
The first step to knowing how many calories a dog needs to consume, is to know how many he burns each day. There are some basic formulas and calculations, based on studies done by the Waltham Center for Pet Nutrition (WCPM), which you can use to get a good idea of calorie requirements for your specific dog.
If your dog is an inactive adult dog, you can use the following formula:
Daily calorie requirement = 90 x bodyweight in KG (0.75)
You can replace the “90” in this calculation depending on your dog’s level of activity…
- Typical – Use 110
- Active – Use 125
- Highly active – Use 175
When you’re trying to calculate the calories needed to help your dog lose weight, you can use the same formula, but use 3/4 of the calculated daily calorie requirement. Let’s say we have a dog who is 88 pounds and has typical activity levels, but she is supposed to only be 75 pounds. You should use the desired weight (75 pounds) in the above calculation and then feed only 75% of the calculated calories necessary.
Not good at math? No problem! You can use Kafka’s feeding calculator (good as both a dog calorie calculator and cat calorie calculator) to find out how many calories your pet needs daily. Once you fill in the correct information about your pup (or kitty), including what their body condition is, you’ll be able to find out how many calories to feed based on your pet’s situation. Note: Our calculator will let you fill in body condition – for instance if your pet needs to lose weight, select the “bodacious” option.
Homemade or fresh cooked dog diet for weight loss
As long as you consult a vet or pet nutritionist, making homemade dog food can be beneficial for weight loss. This is because you know exactly what’s being fed to your pup and that the ingredients are high-quality. If you do proper research, you can find small fresh cooked food brands that have similar benefits and are better for weight control since there are typically less high-calorie fillers.
Filler-free and grain-free pet food made with minimally-processed, healthy ingredients can go a long way when aiming for a healthy weight for a dog (or cats as well).
Your dog’s weight loss exercise plan
As mentioned before, a weight loss plan includes both nutrition AND exercise. Every dog is different, so it’s important to make a plan that is safe for your specific dog.
If your dog is overweight (not obese) and has no related health issues, you can try walking 30 minutes per day at a brisk pace to begin with. Do this 5 days a week if you can. If not, start out with 3 days a week and gradually increase the amount of exercise.
If your dog is more inactive or considered obese, it’s a good idea to start with shorter sessions to make sure that your dog is safe and gradually building stamina. For dogs who have mobility issues, you can think about getting them to do low-impact exercises such as swimming. Talk to your vet about low-impact options!
There are other small things you can make changes to that will help your dog lose weight. For instance, move around his or her water bowl, reward with play or toys instead of treats, and try and do multiple short play sessions throughout the day.
Remember, the safest way for your dog to get to a healthy weight is using a combination of exercise and nutrition. It is important that this process is gradual because otherwise your dog’s body could be negatively impacted by sudden, large changes. Furthermore, gradual changes that you and your pup can get used to will mean that it is easier to continue to maintain a healthy weight.
About Kafka’s Organic
Looking for a healthy, fresh pet food that will help your pet lose weight or maintain a healthy weight? At Kafka’s, we make natural, fresh dog food from locally-sourced, clean ingredients, so you can get all the benefits of home cooking without the hassle. We save you time by sourcing high-quality ingredients and then preparing all of our pet food meals in our human-grade kitchen.
You don’t need to do any guesswork or consult pet nutritionists because we’ve done it for you. We promise that all of our pet meals meet AAFCO guidelines and are checked by a board-certified vet nutritionist.
A quick checklist of just a few of the benefits of fresh food for you and your pup:
- Saves time
- Formulated by vet nutritionists to be balanced & complete
- Gently cooked at low temperature
- Delivered to your home
- Most importantly, it’s good for weight management!
To make it super easy for pet parents to feed healthy local food, we offer fresh dog food in Vancouver and surrounding areas. Prices vary depending on your location but there is FREE delivery on orders of $60 and more.
Calculate your dog’s fresh food needs with our feeding calculator now!
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